SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

New York City

Discussion started on

Veronica

Guest
In my current work-in-progress, my main character moves from Wyoming to New York City... and I've only been to New York once in my life. My lack of experience with New York actually helps for getting the small-town-kid-feeling-lost-in-the-big-city feeling of the story, but I realized as I was writing the first draft that I need help from someone who knows the city for a few of the key details.

MC's dad is a computer consultant who has been telecommuting for years, but decides to move to New York to work in person with his company after his wife (MC's mom) dies. MC resents the fact that he had to leave everything behind "at home" in Wyoming to move to the big city. On his way to his first day of school, he gets turned around in Grand Central Station and takes the wrong train - only to find himself back in 1903, on the Orphan Train from New York City, headed west with a boy who turns out to be his great, great grandfather.

Grand Central is important to the story, as that's where the actual Orphan Trains often started on their trips west from New York City, so my main character has to start his journey there as well. But where (what neighborhood) would his apartment be?  And where would his private school be? He wouldn't live right next to Grand Central, I imagine (right?) - So I'm guessing that he would take a train to Grand Central, where he would have to transfer to the train that's supposed to take him to school (and that's where he accidentally takes the wrong train). Any native New Yorkers willing to help me out with these small, but highly significant details to my WIP?

Thanks so much!!
Veronica Bartles
http://vbartles.com
#1 - June 23, 2012, 09:59 AM

Member.
Poster Plus
I don't know NYC well enough to answer, but regardless of where he goes to school, he could end up at Grand Central Station because he decides to cut school and wants to go somewhere else for the day or because he's hopelessly lost. That would depend on the kid's personality. Either way, it could add an extra layer of adventure/anxiety and you wouldn't have to worry about where he lived.
#2 - June 23, 2012, 10:35 AM
Young Henry and the Dragon (2011, Shenanigan Books)

Children's Book Editor
Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region nymetro
I'd suggest a short visit to NYC in order to absorb some real-life details.

But he could live any number of places. If he's in private school, his family must have money. The Upper East Side or Battery Park City are both likely areas, if you want him to live in Manhattan. If you want a neighborhood in another borough, try Brooklyn Heights.

Subway lines, trains that leave from Grand Central, neighborhoods, and private schools all could be researched online, but you really should visit too...
#3 - June 23, 2012, 10:46 AM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Veronica

Guest
Jeanne - I suppose I could have my character skip school, but that would call for a major personality shift that might change the entire scope of the story. It's an idea to think about...

Harold - I did visit New York once, and I got most of my details for his initial reactions to the city from that visit. I had a second trip planned, hoping to explore the city for the perfect spots to fit into my story... but then my husband got orders (he's in the military), and we're moving from Maryland (where we've been for the past 3 years) to New Mexico. The move is a short-notice thing, and we had to scrap our trip to New York this summer, and I don't know how soon I'll be able to afford to come back for a visit. I'm hoping I'll be able to save up for it before too long...

But as I've worked on this story, I started thinking about when I was in high school, and I picked up a story that was set in my home town. The author got so many things wrong! Little things that only someone who actually lived in the town would know, but that made his fictional version of the town completely unlike the real thing. I was so irritated! I wouldn't want to leave any New Yorkers with that kind of feeling when they read my story, and I realized that even if I was able to visit, as a tourist, I wouldn't really know which neighborhoods would be most likely to be a good choice for their home. I'd hate to pick a neighborhood that I thought had the right feel, only to have every New Yorker who ever reads my story say "that's not even a residential area" or "a wealthy computer programmer wouldn't pick an apartment there. He'd want to live on X street instead."

Really, my main character is only in New York City for a very small part of the story. Most of the story takes place on the Orphan Train in 1903. But I still want to get those details right, if I can.
#4 - June 23, 2012, 11:06 AM

Trench Bunny Caretaker
Member
Poster Plus
I've been to NYC once as well and would've been hopelessly lost if I wasn't travelling with a more experienced friend! And Grand Central Station is HUGE! It wouldn't take much to get him lost there either!

What if he got on the wrong train (or the train going in the wrong direction?) in his own neighbourhood that takes him to Grand Central Station where he gets even more lost?

Hope that helps!

Rue
#5 - June 23, 2012, 11:34 AM
WIP: ETBs 10687/35000 (30.5%)
WIP: IWWP 12045/35000 (34.4%)

Member
Poster Plus
Veronica, do you mean he's leaving NYC for an upstate boarding school? Or are you thinking he's intending to get on a subway train but instead gets on a regular train? That would be pretty hard to do--there is of course a subway in Grand Central Station but no one could mix it up with the regular trains, since you need to swipe your MetroCard and go through a turnstile, and a subway train doesn't look like a regular train.
#6 - June 23, 2012, 11:51 AM
AROUND AMERICA TO WIN THE VOTE
ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY ADDIE
MESMERIZED
GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY!
THE GRUDGE KEEPER
more at mararockliff.com

Veronica

Guest
Actually, the way I had pictured it in my mind (I'm giving myself a little bit of leeway with reality, since I have the time-travel element as a basic plot point) is that he gets off the subway in Grand Central, gets lost and all turned around before he gets caught up in a crowd of people and gets onto what he thinks is probably the right subway train to his private school. As it leaves the station, the lights go dark... And he passes through a time portal. He's now on a regular train - the Orphan Train - leaving New York with a group of Orphans who are to be placed with families out west.

I was thinking it might be okay for the subway train to morph into a regular train when he slips back to 1903, since my research tells me that the first underground line of the New York subway system didn't open until 1904 (he couldn't be on a subway in 1903, because that didn't exist yet). Because he is a clueless kid from Wyoming, who has only ever experienced public transportation once before in his life (when his Dad took him on a trial run to make sure he could get to school on his own), he doesn't immediately notice the difference between the subway and the old-fashioned train he's now on. He just assumes he got on the wrong train, and he plans to get off on the next stop to go back to Grand Central for the right one. (He does notice that his cell phone is missing from his pocket, but he assumes he dropped it - or someone stole it - back at Grand Central.)
#7 - June 23, 2012, 12:11 PM

Member
Poster Plus
I don't know anything about NYC --- but commiserations on the short notice relocation. Been there - done that. Used to be a military spouse. :)
#8 - June 23, 2012, 03:28 PM
« Last Edit: June 23, 2012, 06:30 PM by Lill »
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

novaren

Guest
You don't have many subway transfer options at Grand Central, because I doubt, knowing what his father does, that he'd live off the 7 train that goes to Queens.

Maybe he lives on the Upper East Side, but his school is on the west side of Manhattan, downtown, so he has to travel through midtown to get there. He could be taking the 4 / 5 / 6 downtown to Grand Central where he plans to switch to the S, the shuttle that runs straight between Grand Central and Times Square. (From Times Square he'd catch another train after the shuttle.) The shuttle can be a weird experience, as you get on the train and wait a bit for it to fill with people and then it goes just one stop, lets everyone off, fills up again, and then goes back the other way. Over and over again.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42nd_Street_Shuttle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Central_(IRT_42nd_Street_Shuttle)#IRT_42nd_Street_Shuttle_platforms

Transferring subways at Grand Central doesn't involve being in Grand Central Station with the beautiful ceiling, though, if you want that in your novel. For that, he'd have to transfer from the subway to a Metro-North commuter train, which heads north out of the city—and that would be easy to get confused about which way it was headed. I got on one headed to the Hudson Valley last week and the conductor confused everyone on board by mistakenly saying we were headed to Connecticut. Everyone panicked for a few minutes!

Good luck—your story sounds fascinating!
#9 - June 23, 2012, 03:36 PM

Veronica

Guest
Nova - See? This is why I need someone who knows these things :) I do want him to be in Grand Central Station with the beautiful ceiling. I remember that was the biggest thing that caught and held my attention when I visited New York. But I actually came across that ceiling when I got myself lost and was trying to find my way back to my hotel... so I had no idea that it wasn't something my character would see when trying to transfer from one subway to another. The Metro-North commuter train sounds like it would be what I need for the story. Would that train be a viable option for a daily commute to a private school?

Thanks so much for your help!!
#10 - June 23, 2012, 06:16 PM

Children's Book Editor
Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region nymetro
It's unlikely that someone would commute either into the city or out of the city to go to school, even a private school. It could happen, but it's a stretch.

Why couldn't your MC be going to visit a friend, or to go to some nice town on the Hudson Valley line? That would get him off the subway and up the stairs into the main Grand Central, and there he could catch his train.

Since you can't make it into the city, I would suggest finding someone to be a reader for you when you've got the manuscript roughed out...
#11 - June 23, 2012, 07:49 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

I think it more likely he would live in an outer borough, like Brooklyn or Queens, take a subway into Manhattan for school, and then have a reason to have to go deeper into the station.  Does he go into one of the shops?  Does someone mistakenly take his bag?  Or maybe someone steals from him and he chases them?  Or a dog runs off or a cat gets out of a carrier or something?  He might just get on the train to get a cat or something and then it takes off....
#12 - June 23, 2012, 09:34 PM
The Arts-Angels, Track 1: DRAWN TO YOU
2012 from Brushstroke Books

You could have your private school character planning to visit friends/relatives in Connecticut and taking the Metro North line. I was not a private high schooler in NYC but I did live there and took the Metro North line a lot to visit my family.

Also, a nit-picky thing. The original name is Grand Central Terminal (although Grand Central Station is used enough to make it okay today).
#13 - June 24, 2012, 03:30 AM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

Illustration website:

http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region sfnortheastbay
My cousins commuted every day from Westchester County (Mt. Vernon) to a Manhattan private school via train & subway. But this is unusual. You'd need a compelling reason.
I second Harold’s suggestion you get a beta-reader who is or was a Manhattanite. Writing about a real place requires knowing it and knowing a whole lot more than makes it into the manuscript.
 :goodluck
#14 - June 24, 2012, 09:25 AM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing Aug 2012
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520 July 2011

www.mirkabreen.com
http://mirkabreen.BlogSpot.com

I could be your reader, if you'd like.  I was born and raised in Manhattan and lived there for over 30 years.  I moved to Brooklyn only a few years ago (the rents were just too darn high) and commute to Manhattan by Subway Mon-Fri.
#15 - June 24, 2012, 09:35 AM
The Arts-Angels, Track 1: DRAWN TO YOU
2012 from Brushstroke Books

novaren

Guest
Nova - See? This is why I need someone who knows these things :) I do want him to be in Grand Central Station with the beautiful ceiling. I remember that was the biggest thing that caught and held my attention when I visited New York. But I actually came across that ceiling when I got myself lost and was trying to find my way back to my hotel... so I had no idea that it wasn't something my character would see when trying to transfer from one subway to another. The Metro-North commuter train sounds like it would be what I need for the story. Would that train be a viable option for a daily commute to a private school?

Thanks so much for your help!!

I think it would be strange for him to live in Manhattan or a borough and then commute on the Metro-North to school every day outside the city—I mean, what a long ride! Plus, there are amazing private schools right here, and it doesn't sound like this is for boarding school. I know quite a few people who live up off the Metro-North and then commute down into the city for a job, but that's another story. Commuting out is not as common.

Glad I could be helpful about the ceiling situation, though!

I think Harold's suggestion is a good one... Could this be a special trip he's making off the Hudson line or another line?
#16 - June 24, 2012, 11:16 AM

Children's Book Editor
Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region nymetro
This conversation is reminding me of one of my favorite children's books--a book which happens to involve two children taking the New Haven line train into the city, to Grand Central, and then spending several days hiding at the Metropolitan Museum....
#17 - June 24, 2012, 12:50 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Veronica

Guest
Thank you so much for your suggestions! I could have him going to visit someone, an aunt or close family friend, without changing the plot of the story at all. In fact, that might make the whole story flow better. And it would be much more believable to me in the whole scheme of things. I'm so glad I posted here to ask for help!

And yes, I would love to have a New York beta reader when I finish with the story. I was hoping I could find such a person :) Like I said, New York City only makes a very brief appearance in the story, but it's enough that I would want to have someone who knows the city make sure I'm getting my details right.

You guys are the best!
#18 - June 25, 2012, 06:21 AM

Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region nymetro
He would want to start from the number 6, 4, 5, they all go to Grand central I live in NY  most likely uptown in the 60’s is where he would live and
I have a cousin who will be going to privet school in the city he lives in Long Island and the school is uptown someplace.
 But that is Pen station he will get off at.
 So it may be possible he starts his trip in Westchester and goes to the city for school. And gets turned around between the upper and lower levels of metro north, thinking the lower level is the subway. But it would be almost impossible for someone to get off a subway car and find them self in Grand Central and think he was taking another subway.       
#19 - June 26, 2012, 03:40 AM

"This conversation is reminding me of one of my favorite children's books--a book which happens to involve two children taking the New Haven line train into the city, to Grand Central, and then spending several days hiding at the Metropolitan Museum...."

The New Haven Line. That is what I took. That is where I decamped.

Now I go through the other train station. Which isn't nearly as nice. But it is so convenient.

You really should visit Grand Central. It is pretty grand.
#20 - June 26, 2012, 03:48 AM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

Illustration website:

http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

Veronica

Guest
First of all, thank you all so much for your input! Especially for the suggestion that my character might be visiting family in Connecticut. That twist actually ties up a loose plot point that I was struggling with and makes the whole story work better, I think.  :yay

I am setting money aside to attempt a trip to New York as soon as possible, but in the meantime, I'd like to keep working on this book. If one of you native New Yorkers could help me, I'd be most grateful!!

My question this time: If my main character was lost in Grand Central and trying to navigate by the constellations on the ceiling (the way he used to navigate by the stars while hiking in the mountains of Wyoming), which painted constellation would be above or near the passage he would need to take to get to the Metro-North train line to Connecticut?

I'm trying to remember details from my only trip to New York, and all this small-town girl can remember is that I felt awfully lost, standing in the giant room with that beautifully painted ceiling. I can't even find the dozens of pictures I took of the inside of Grand Central!!  I don't remember train tracks right there by where I was standing, so I'm assuming that I would have had to leave that area to actually get on a train. Of course, I was in Grand Central by accident in the first place (it was near my hotel and somehow I went into a wrong door and got hopelessly lost inside Grand Central before I found my way out again and found my way back to my hotel), so I wasn't actually looking for where the trains were when I was there. Maybe I was standing right next to the train tracks and didn't even notice... (Too bad I didn't know I was going to write this story at the time. I would have taken better notes!)
#21 - July 02, 2012, 12:41 PM


Veronica

Guest
Stephen,

Thanks. I actually had all but the 2nd link you suggested already bookmarked. The pictures help, but they really aren't the same as being there in person. (Wish I didn't have to cancel my trip!!) In my hazy memory of the time I spent lost in Grand Central, I picture walking through an archway under the Pegasus constellation and turning left. I never saw any train tracks, so I have my character finding the Pegasus, walking through the archway and turning right... but after I wrote it, I started to wonder:
 * Is the Pegasus really over an archway that leads to another passage in Grand Central, or is it just that I remember the Pegasus constellation more clearly than the others, so that's where I focus my memory's attention?
 * Would you actually get anywhere near the tracks for any train, let alone a train headed to Connecticut, if you walked through the Pegasus arch and turned right?
#23 - July 03, 2012, 08:30 AM

Liz
Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region indiana
This conversation is reminding me of one of my favorite children's books--a book which happens to involve two children taking the New Haven line train into the city, to Grand Central, and then spending several days hiding at the Metropolitan Museum....

I think I know that book, I've read it many times! I have always wanted to try something like that! (until I my friend who is a curator showed me how well they lock up museums, big and small!)
#24 - July 03, 2012, 03:58 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

http://www.lizstrawwrites.com/

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.